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Are there online tools to look up words from their pronunciation? For example, when I hear /bεə/, I want it to tell me that there are words bear and bare that are pronounced /bεə/.


locked by simchona Jan 13 '13 at 6:01

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This is a dilemma faced by (American, anyway; probably all) schoolchildren, and the subject of numerous comedy routines. The student asks the teacher "How do you spell (X)?"; the teacher responds "Look it up in the dictionary!" - to which the kid answers "If I knew how to find it in the dictionary, I wouldn't have asked!" It would probably be a great day for language learners if the dictionary you describe actually existed, but it would be a sad day for comedy. – MT_Head Jun 5 '11 at 22:40
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I do not know of any online tools for doing reverse pronunciation to word search. However, if you are handy with searching text files, you can download the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary. It does not use IPA, but there is a key to the phonetic encoding that dictionary uses (called ARPAbet). You can then search the text file for pronunciations you are interested in. To take your example, /bεə/ in ARPAbet would be B EH1 R so a search for that returns these results:


Note the dictionary is not 100% perfect or consistent, as it was generated by low-paid grad students, but it is freely-available. It has many proper nouns not specially marked, so you'll need to look up results elsewhere to see what they mean if they are unfamiliar. Also, the dictionary is American English only, so if you're hoping for British pronunciations, you're out of luck there too.

But you can definitely do what you want, and find answers to questions like "all words that sound like _".

How do you exactly search for it? I see only "Look up the pronunciation for a word or a sentence in CMUdict " search that doesn't work for ARPAbet word encoding – Theta30 Jun 18 '11 at 1:41
@Bogdan You have to download the cmudict.0.7a file from cmusphinx.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/cmusphinx/trunk/cmudict and search the text file using grep or the “find” function in your text editor. Or just open the file using your web browser and use its search function. – nohat Jun 18 '11 at 4:07

You could try this from Google.

Google translator sucks. – Gigili Jun 5 '11 at 11:55
@Gigili: Thanks for the nuanced and informative comment. Everyone who visits this page will be glad you left it. – Marcin Jun 5 '11 at 13:51

I use the online Merriam-Webster and their iPhone app. They feature both English and American pronunciation of most words.

I guess he was asking for a dictionary where you look up words using IPA. But I highly doubt there is actually one... – Alenanno Jun 5 '11 at 12:17
I'm not looking for a dictionary that gives pronunciation of a word, but one that indexes words with a given pronunciation. Like Alenanno has said. – trVoldemort Jun 5 '11 at 12:18
How do you guys find the meaning of a new word heard from TV shows or audio media? – trVoldemort Jun 5 '11 at 12:21

Often simply spelling a word somewhat, if not wholly, phonologically into an online dictionary has yielded good results for me, or at least results that lead me somewhere. Otherwise, maybe the best solution is breaking the word down into morphemes and searching by these smaller bits. Breaking words apart might be a good solution to the issue of "translating" a different dialect.


This website provides a couple of pronunciation tools. They're quite useful.


You could try CMUdict based aplication.

I look up "be7." on online AsifSound to Spelling Dictionary.

"7" is assigned for R-vowel symbol in this tool.
("7" and "r" is resemble shape.)


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